Roundtable Conference on Senate Reforms in Pakistan

Senator Nayyar Bukhari Leader of the House in Senate (Pakistan People’s Party) speaking at the Roundtable Conference on Senate Reforms in Pakistan.

Left to right: Zaffarullah Khan, Executive Director CCE, I.A. Rehman, Director Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais, head of the Social Sciences Department of Lahore University of Management Sciences, Senator Nayyar Bukhari, Dr. Jaffar Ahmad, Director Pakistan Study Centre of Karachi University and Senator Taj Haider of Pakistan People’s Party.

The Forum and the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) organized a roundtable discussion on ‘Senate Reforms in Pakistan’ on February 27, 2011 as a part of their on-going project on "Strengthening federalism in Pakistan ». The roundtable was an effort to understand and discuss the current status of the Senate of Pakistan and other related issues and prepare recommendations for its reform.
After the passage of 18th Constitutional Amendment by the Parliament of Pakistan, the question of Senate Reforms needed serious debate and discussion in order to resolve issues of composition, representation and the process of selection and election. This was organized to facilitate and strengthen Pakistan’s federal character, to accommodate and expand its role in deliberations on legislative processes.
These issues for reform were recognized in November and December 2009, when the Forum and CCE under took a provincial assessment of federalism stake holders on the issues of federalism in the national and provincial context. This feedback and the analysis from the roundtables helped draw out Pakistan’s major challenges to federalism.

The Executive Director of the CCE, Zaffarullah Khan, welcomed the participants and facilitating the conference as moderator was Dr. Jaffar Ahmad, Director Pakistan Study Centre from Karachi University. Amongst the participants at the round table were representatives and experts from government, academia and institutions, these included: Senator Nayyar Bukhari of the Pakistan People’s Party and Leader of the House in the Senate, Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais, head of the Social Sciences Department of Lahore University of Management Sciences, Senator Taj Haider of the Pakistan People’s Party, Bushra Gohar (Member of Parliament) from Awami National Party, I.A. Rehman, Director Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. These participants outlined several important points and recommendations that were discussed, these were:

• The18th Amendment was a step towards the resolution of these issues of representation and delegation of powers though there was still a great need for Senate reforms.
• The Senate as primarily a legislative institution should not be seen as an executive institution.
• Though federalism is democratic, it ran the risk of ‘majoritarian tyranny’, this should be monitored in order to avoid this type of situation.
• Years of military and controlled democratic rules have caused distrust among the constituent units; this could be redressed by reforming the upper house.
• Criterion for the selection and election of representatives in the Senate of Pakistan needed to be amended in order to ensure proper representation. It should go beyond the four provinces in order to increase the number of stakeholders in the process and assimilate different racial, cultural and religious groups.
• Of the 22 seats allocated to each province in the Senate, some seats should also be allocated to the ‘regions’ in each province for greater regional representation.
• There was a need to strengthen the Human Rights Committee of the Senate, as such its Chairman could be appointed from the opposition benches.
• The idea was brought forward for a strong Senate with veto-power on Money Bills
• It was suggested that there exists a weak link between the people and politics, therefore direct elections of Senators from one-member constituencies could bridge this gap.
• Greater representation would be aided by officially acknowledging and accommodating the regions such as Gilgit-Baltistan, Seraiki speaking people and Chitralis in the Senate.
Nine key recommendations were drawn from this consultative meeting and will be presented before the Federal Government and Senate. This conference was supported and funded by the by the German Foreign Office.

Roundtable Conference on Senate Reforms in Pakistan

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